Last edited: November 02, 2003

Sentence Reduced for Gay Journalist in Uzbekistan, September 25, 2003

By Jon ben Asher, Newscenter, European Bureau Chief

Tashkent, Uzbekistan—An appeals court Thursday reduced the sentence of a gay journalist imprisoned on what human rights groups are calling bogus charges. The court in Tashkent lowered the sentence of Ruslan Sharipov to four years from the 5 1/2 year sentence he received at his trial.

Sharipov, a noted human rights journalist was highly critical of the Uzbek government in reports published in the west.

Last month he was convicted of having gay sex, sex with minors and running a brothel.

Sharipov has maintained his innocence, but in the middle of his trial he abruptly pled guilty and dismissed his lawyers.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and made public this week, he claimed that he had been tortured into confessing and that police forced him to write a suicide note and threatened to kill him if he fought the charges.

A U.N. human rights envoy last year reported that Uzbekistan routinely used torture in its prisons.

Uzbekistan is a strategic ally of the United States in the war against terrorism and provided an operations base during the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch, said the lesser sentence could help Sharipov eventually be granted freedom under the country’s annual amnesties for prisoners. Still, the organization criticized the court for not overturning the verdict and said the case was characterized by lack of evidence and breaches of international law.”

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